The Road To Kona Stops Here. For Now.

© Ali Engin 2014

I wanted to give an update on the rest of 2014. In spite of all my racing, I came up one spot short of a guaranteed slot to Kona this year (though, as I said, that became less about points that about racing), and – for the first time in the history of the KPR – no slots rolled down. It’s still possible that someone might pull out, in which case the slot would go to me, but as I was admittedly on the fence about racing this year anyway, if that happens, I will pass on it. It was actually probably easier to have the decision made for me than to make what I think would have been the right decision, since there’s a lot of emotion attached to Kona; though I think it’s noteworthy that I did my best racing when I avoided the emotional attachment to Kona, and that a return to a focus on preparation and execution – rather than a focus on Kona itself – will get me where I want to be, both in Kona and elsewhere. Focus on the journey and the process, not the destination, even when that destination can be as all consuming as Kona is. 

I feel like it took a year (maybe more) to fully recover from that massive block of ultras in 2012 – four 8 hour races in six months (IMTX, IMNYC, Leadman Bend, Kona), five in 10 months (add in IMMEL ’13), but that I have in fact put that behind me. The preparation I did for IMTX 2014 was as good as any I’ve done, though I think I paid a price for that based on how I felt (and performed) on race day; I wasn’t yet back in terms of my ability to really absorb the training as I had in the past. But after living on planes and out of a suitcase for a month and half, I finally got to at least realize the benefits of that training. That was the last block of real training I did, and yet I managed to progress from a 4:03 in Syracuse to a 3:48 in Calgary. 
I’m looking to continue on that with a return to the 70.3 WC in early September. Last time I raced them – at the very first in Clearwater ’06 – I came off the bike in 6th. I’d be pretty happy if I could do that again, and I think if I do, I’ll finish better than 22nd… Following that, I’m currently planning on the 70.3 races in Princeton, NJ (going back “home”) on Sep 21 and Silverman in Las Vegas (a course that suits me) on Oct 5. I may drop one of these depending on how recovery goes and how the next five weeks of training go. But I’m hoping to do both. And then I will finish off the year, as I always seem to do, in the Tempe desert at Ironman Arizona, where I have my sights set on cracking the eight hour barrier (and taking back the course record).
The decision to focus on this path and on becoming a better athlete and returning to being a healthy one was certainly made easier in part by the caliber of the people and companies I work with. When I thought about what sort of result it would take to be impactful and meaningful in Kona, I realized that the bar is quite high. Those folks who support me support a lot of other world class athletes. Unless I was prepared to deliver at least a top-5 or – in some cases – a top-3, which I honestly do not believe I am capable of right now (or, to be more specific, in 10 weeks). And certainly anything less than that is less meaningful, I think, than getting back in the winner’s circle and chasing – and delivering – a world class performance at a non-Kona Ironman thanks to appropriate preparation. 
A lot of the decisions I made this year were decisions I should have made last year. The decision to take a big break (at the very end of last year), the decision to change coaches. Both of these were decisions I should have made three to six months earlier than I did. But I didn’t, and as a result, I’m about three to six months behind where I want to be now. I should have passed on Kona last year so as to appropriately prepare for this year. I’m trying not to repeat those mistakes of being short term greedy. I figure I have – without a bunch of future bad decisions and with lessons learned – four and maybe five years of world class racing. I’d rather maximize those than just go to Kona to be there this year.
My confidence on the race course certainly took a beating last year. And I imagine that the confidence of the folks who support me – financially and otherwise – may also have taken a beating. And it took a beating for much of this year as well, especially in Texas. But after all this racing, I feel like I have it back. And I’m excited for the end of the year. And I plan to deliver some results to be excited about as well.

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